The whole market (and the media) seems to be worried about a looming recession. Driving that fear are many factors: a surging economy, very high market valuations, and a nearly inverted yield curve. Several big banks and research houses have put out warnings of a looming recession and bear market. However, one of the most prominent, Goldman Sachs, has just gone on the record doing the opposite. The bank says there is only a 36% chance of recession in the next three years, a figure below the historical average. “There has been increasing investor interest in the chance of a recession in the U.S. over the next few years … Our model paints a more benign picture”, said GS economist Jan Hatzius. The bank did note that if a US recession does occur, it will likely drag many developed economies down with it.
FINSUM: Recessions are famously hard to call, so we won’t go one way or the other. That said, there are some signs that a recession is looming. We certainly think the odds are higher than 36% for the next three years.
The last few months have been bleak for the US housing market. There has been a steady stream of negative data showing that the market is definitively slowing. Now a new one is emerging—bank lending is contracting quickly in the space. The fall off is so strong that banks are laying off workers in lending units. Both sources of demand for mortgages—refinancing and new home purchases—have dried up as interest rates and housing prices have risen. July showed the fifth straight month of declining home sales, coming in the time of the year when they should be strongest. Speaking about the state of home prices and mortgage demand, the chief economist at Fannie Mae says, “people are saying, ‘at these prices, and with rates rising, I’ll stay where I am’”.
FINSUM: We believe the US is in for a long winter of falling home prices. We think the market is at a turning point right now where sellers are trying to cling to high prices, but buyers have finally stopped giving in.
The US and Mexico have reached an important trade agreement after a year of acrimonious bickering over Nafta. The new deal, from which Canada is conspicuously absent, will put harder trade restrictions on Mexico. The deal is a sign that Trump and the US are willing to ease their fight with neighbors as the country ramps up a battle with China. The Trump administration was in a rush to get a deal done before a power change coming in Mexico. The deal will no longer be called Nafta, but the US-Mexico trade agreement.
FINSUM: This is encouraging from our perspective. The last thing we want right now is a multi-fronted trade war. Hopefully a deal with Canada can be reached as well.
The US real estate market has appeared to be on the ropes for several months. While the woes in commercial real estate have been apparent for some time, it is the recent reversal in the residential market that caught some off guard. Well, new data is out, and it seems to have cemented a new reality—housing is in full decline. Homes sales declined month over month, with a big drop in sales in the northeast. The home sales figure was the weakest in two years. The chief economist of the National Association of Realtors commented that “Too many would-be buyers are either being priced out, or are deciding to postpone their search until more homes in their price range come on to the market”.
FINSUM: The summer is usually a better time for home sales, so this comes during what should be a period of strength. Home prices seem bound for a correction given how pricey things have become at the same time as rates have been rising.
Citigroup says that the US just crossed a scary economic threshold. The bank’s well-known economic surprise index shows that the US is now at greater risk of negative economic surprises than is Europe, the first time that has occurred in some time. While the economy has been doing well, the trade war and a multitude of other factors, including the Fed, mean the US is more at risk of an economic downturn than Europe.
FINSUM: It is pretty easy to say that a country whose growth is at 4.1% is at risk of a downturn. It would not take much for the US to slow down considering its growth appears to be peaking.
The US real estate market is in a worrying period. New builds, home sales, and inventory have all been showing weak signs for the last few months, and it seems to portend the start of a reversal in the market after a long run higher. This week will see if the current downward trend holds, or whether the data was an aberration. New data this week will cover new and existing home sales, which the market will be watching closely for signs of a downturn.
FINSUM: Housing and building-related stocks have suffered this year on a worsening outlook. Our instinct is that housing has a hit a wall and may be at the start of a correction.